Stockton Town 3 North Shields 1 – Ebac Northern League Division One

Stockton and North Shields dealt with adversity in very different ways.

Stockton have been in imperious form so far this season – 11 wins and one draw.  And yet, after an uncertain start to the match, North Shields shaded the first half and came closest to scoring when Cameron Cunningham had a first time shot tipped over the bar by Stockton keeper Callum Roberts.

The mettle of both sides was tested either side of half time.

In the 45th minute Roberts was sent off after fouling Kyle Patton when the Shields No. 7 broke through and tried to round the keeper.  That incident, along with a half time break when manager Michael Dunwell made clear how unhappy he was with the way they were playing, spurred the hosts on.

It was a different tale for North Shields.  Six minutes after the interval North Shields were unlucky when the ball deflected off Gary Ormston and into the net.  The setback seemed to knock them sideways.  They lost focus and cohesion.  A second deflection off Ormston hit the post and five minutes later they were 2-0 down, while Stockton were flying, despite being down to 10 men.

The second goal came when Kevin Hayes cut back in from the right and planted the ball past Shields keeper Greg Purvis and inside the left post.  Four minutes after that, they should have gone 3-0 up.  Jamie Owens was fouled in the area by North Shields No. 5 Paul New, only for Nathan Mulligan to sky the spot kick well over the bar.

That seemed to spark a bit of a reaction from the Tynesiders.  Stockton captain Adam Nicholson was forced to clear a corner from under the bar and then Cunningham put a shot just over the bar.

In the 68th minute the game was effectively over when Owens converted a Mulligan free kick from the right with a header into the Shields goal.  Two minutes after that he could have scored again after a James Risborough cross found him in front of goal, but the No. 10 couldn’t set his feet right for a shot and ended up back heeling it to Purvis.

Shields finally got on the scoreboard in the 87th minute.  After being awarded a penalty, Gareth Bainbridge stepped up to take the spot kick, only for replacement keeper Max Craggs to save his first effort.  However, he couldn’t hold on to the ball and Bainbridge slotted it past him at the second time of asking.  In the first minute of added time he had a header rattle off the bar.

It was a sign of Shields’ lack of threat up front that, apart from the penalty, Craggs didn’t have too much to do for his time in goal.

PS – thanks to North Shields Twitter for announcing that Gareth Bainbridge’s goal meant he has equalled the post-war goal scoring record held by Don Winskill for more than 50 years.  It’s a terrific achievement.

Mike Snowdon

Tow Law Town 1 Gateshead Rutherford 0 – Durham Challenge Cup

Nobody said life or football was meant to be fair.  The Tynesiders deserved at least a draw; probably a win.  They left Ironworks Road with nothing, apart from appreciation from your correspondent.  I was impressed by their attitude, commitment and play.  The trouble is, those things don’t necessarily win you matches.

To win a game you have to complete one task:  score a goal.  Tow Law duly obliged.  They didn’t do much else.  They edged the opening 10 minutes but after that they didn’t make much headway, against a team that put up a well-organised and solid defence.

At least they made the most of their best move – Fraser Colling threading a strong, diagonal ball through a couple of defenders, allowing No. 9 David Allasan to run on to it and stroke it past Rutherford keeper Andrew Pittock.

With just over 10 minutes to go, a simple assessment was shouted from their bench:  “Sloppy.”

Meanwhile, Rutherford looked busier and more lively for the whole game.  The woodwork came to Tow Law’s rescue.

In the 13th minute the visitors’ No. 8 Dan Fullen had a half-cross, half shot bounce off the top of the bar.  In a two-minute spell in the second half they were within inches of drawing level three times.

In the 70th minute, Dylan Howourth it the underside of the bar, with Kyle Wilson following that effort up with a shot that also hit the bar.  A minute later Howourth turned Lawyers No. 7 Fraser Colling, but screwed his shot just the wrong side of the right hand post.

They continued to push more players forward in search of an equaliser, to no avail.  I’ve seen quite a few of our second division sides play much worse than Rutherford.  They acquitted themselves very well indeed.  But fair?  What’s that got to do with it?

(* Assistant referee Alan Breeze had to get his skates on to make kick-off, after mistakenly thinking that the game was being played today.  With no sign of him, referee Matthew Morton was lining up a replacement to run the line but a quick phone call by Lawyers secretary Steve Moralee meant the linesman ditched a game of badminton in Willington mid-game to make the kick-off with seconds to spare.

And life outside the Northern League is a bit different too.  One of the Gateshead Rutherford players sneaked a quick fag outside the changing rooms 15 minutes before kick-off.  Not the pre-match preparation you normally see nowadays.)

Mike Snowdon

Sunderland West End 0-1 Padiham FC – Buildbase FA Vase Second Qualifying Round

 An early goal from Danny Smith was enough to ensure Padiham secured their place in the third qualifying round of the FA Vase.

Padiham scored with the first real chance of the game in the 10th minute, when Adam Morning’s cross was met by a thumping header from Smith, which left West End keeper Neal Bussey no chance.

West End’s first chance came 16 minutes in, when Jake Fenton’s long ball found Kieron Martin who then cut inside, however his strike hit the bar.

The visitors went close again 10 minutes later, when Morning’s thunderous free kick came off the underside of the bar; unfortunately for him the ball bounced away from goal.

In an end to end game, Padiham went into the break a goal to the good and were certainly the happier of the two sides starting the second half.

The visitors started the second half quicker than the hosts, and almost went ahead when Luke Taylor’s cross found Morning, however he could only direct his header wide.

The home side went close to an equaliser halfway through the second half, when Martin picked out Brad Wilson, but he could only send his volley over the bar.

Padiham pushed for a second to kill the game and almost got it when Morning picked out Smith from a corner, however his volley sailed over the bar.

With only 10 minutes left on the clock, West End pushed forward in numbers and almost scored an equaliser, when Reece Thompson’s cross was met by Adam Drysdale, who could only direct his header onto the bar.

Padiham’s resilient defence held out for the win and progression to the next round, despite West End’s efforts to claim a draw.

West End will be disappointed not to get anything from the game, but they can be proud for the fight and effort they showed to change the game.

Adam Gill

Steeton AFC 2 Seaham Red Star 3 – Buildbase FA Vase second qualifying round

This should have been a comfortable win.  Somehow Red Star managed to keep their finger perilously close to the self-destruct button for an uncomfortably long time in this game.

The opening couple of minutes promised a relatively easy passage through to the next round, with Red Star setting their stall out early with four attacks in the opening three minutes against a team that has only won one game, drawn another and lost seven so far this season.

For the opening quarter of an hour they were the better team, just guilty of some sloppy play.  They took the lead in the 16th minute when Dan Wilson knocked down a long ball for Michael Chilton who took a touch, turned and curled it round a couple of defenders and in between the right post and Steeton keeper Danny Thorpe, diving to his left.

Three minutes later Steeton No. 10 Andy Briggs put a weak header straight at Red Star keeper Chris Bannon.  He made amends a minute later when Red Star failed to clear the ball from their box.  He picked up the loose ball and scored, despite Bannon getting a hand to it.

Briggs’ opposite number – David Robinson – re-established Red Star’s lead in the 28th minute when he moved the ball across the edge of the box and hit the target, with Thorpe rooted to the spot.  In the 30th minute Thorpe was able get a hand to another Robinson shot, this time from outside the box, to push the ball out for a corner.

The visitors extended their lead seconds later when Chilton made it 1-3 with a well timed run and header past Thorpe inside the right hand post.  They should have made it 1-4 on the stroke of half time, but Liam Gillhesphey hit a first time shot into the ground, bouncing the ball over the bar.

There wasn’t much to report for the opening 15 minutes of the second half, with both teams struggling to play much football of any quality.  Then Red Star started to look for the self-destruct button.

Anthony Myers was guilty of a dreadful back pass, letting Steeton left winger Jez Milambo in.  He dribbled round a couple of Red Star players, kept his composure and scored from the edge of the six yard box.   It was a reward for the No. 11 who was Steeton’s best player on the day.

Things then got even worse for the visitors in the 21st minute of the half when Robinson was sent off for a foul on Scott Stein, a foul that sparked a mass confrontation between the teams.  The incident fuelled bad feeling between the players for the rest of the game.

The sending off gave Steeton every encouragement to have a go and press for an equaliser.  Milambo sent over a corner that Bannon did well to tip over the bar.  The No. 11 had another chance in the 78th minute when one-on-one with Bannon, but he hit a shot tamely at the keeper.  I got the sense that a feeling of ‘We’re in trouble here’ was sweeping through the Red Star team.

The momentum had swung Steeton’s way and they continued to attack, with Red Star resorting to booting the ball clear, giving possession straight back to the hosts.  Relief for Red Star only came in the 90th minute when Briggs was sent off – knocking the wind out of the Steeton team for the several minutes of added time.

Red Star had scraped through 3-2.

Mike Snowdon

(Thanks to Russ Wynn for the main photo)

Washington 1-5 Sunderland AFC U23s – Durham Challenge Cup

 Sunderland U23s stuck five past Washington as they cruised into the next round of the Durham Challenge Cup at New Ferens Park.

After a quiet opening from both sides, Sunderland took the lead in the 16th minute when Washington keeper Ryan Lumsden spilled Dan Neil’s long ball, leaving Nathan Greenwood to tap home.

Four minutes later the visitors doubled their lead when Williams Kokolo played a one-two with Greenwood which sent the left back through on goal, before he slotted the ball under Lumsden.

The away side had another chance to extend their lead five minutes before half-time when Lee Connelly ran onto Jack Bainbridge’s long ball, however he could only send his effort wide of the target.

Sunderland went into the break two goals to the good after a dominant first half display, while Washington struggled to create any clear cut chances.

Four minutes after the restart, the visitors increased their advantage when Owen Gamble slid the ball through to Greenwood, who then squared for Connelly to tap home.

Two minutes later Sunderland scored their fourth, when Bainbridge was left unmarked to bundle home Neil’s cross.

After the away side’s fourth goal, Washington grew into the game and started to cause the Sunderland backline some problems.

The home side pulled one back in the 61st minute, when Craig Hennis picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled his effort off the post and in, leaving Black Cats keeper Ahmed Abdelkader no chance.

Despite Washy’s improved second half performance, the away side added another 70 minutes in, when Neil’s strike was saved leaving Connelly to tap home the rebound.

The tempo dropped for the last period of the game, as Sunderland retained the ball and reduced Washington to very few chances.

Sunderland progress to the next round of the Durham Challenge Cup after a professional performance, however Washington can be pleased with how they responded in the second half despite defeat.

Adam Gill

Shildon 2 Guisborough 1 – Mitre Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup Group F

Tuesday saw the first night of the new style Mitre Brooks Mileson Northern League Challenge Cup. The competition now mimics FIFA, UEFA and the leasing.com Trophy (forever known in this house as “That bloody Checkatrade thing that Portsmouth beat us in at Wembley”) in having group stages before the more exciting knock out stuff starts.

Unfortunately, the date for this inaugural mass group day clashed with the rare occurrence of a live game on terrestrial television as England played Kosovo in a European Championship qualifier at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton.

Presumably, the FA will have a jolly good reason for playing the game at the smallest venue possible, far enough away from the capital for an overnight stay, but not up north amongst the unruly northern hordes who have been known to look less than favourably on some of the London based players who seem to regard an England place as an absolute right. Jack Wilshere, anyone?

I, along with another 167 dedicated souls, chose a Group F game at Dean Street, where Guisborough Town were the visitors. Both teams have started reasonably well and both sides had made it clear that this would be an opportunity to give regular substitutes and younger players a run out.

Shildon excelled in this role as the average age of the team was 19, with the visitors weighing in at 23, with skipper Brian Close, a distinguished grey hair of 37, pushing up their mean. Throw in a referee who looked as if he had barely started shaving and two assistants who still had their school shoes on, and it was a night for the young.

They gave us older spectators an excellent night by producing 90 minutes of football that was a pleasure to watch. There were no cynical fouls and absolutely none of the rolling around and squealing that is prevalent in the professional leagues and amongst some of those who play at this level. The referee, Adam Nichol, had a good game and was not harangued from all sides as is often the case. The air did not turn blue with language that would make a docker/sailor/Archbishop blush.

We got 90 minutes of hugely enjoyable football, and we saw some impressive individual performances.

Matthew Bancroft in the Shildon goal made a series of outstanding saves when it was goalless and then another set when Guisborough had pulled one back and were hunting an equaliser. Stephen Roberts burrowed away for The Priorymen and was rewarded with a goal that set up an exciting finish. Matthew Crust marshalled a youthful Guisborough defence and Shildon’s first ever Romanian, Iulian Petrache did likewise for the Railwaymen.

But the star of the show was Shildon’s young forward, Tafari Nicholas. He is not the biggest player, standing at 5’8” and he is slight, but he was prepared to stand up to the powerful Crust and his colleague Harry Thompson. Throughout the first half, he harried and chased them, never flinched a challenge and had a couple of half chances which he snatched at.

When the halftime whistle sounded, three of the Shildon side were yanked off by their mams in order to finish their homework and polish their school shoes, but Tafari was not one of them. His second half performance was the difference between two good sides.

First of all, he took a finely weighted pass from Nathan Steel in his stride, skipped over two despairing lunges and rattled home a shot to put Shildon ahead. That got a standing ovation from some (ok, me) in the stand.

A few minutes later, he picked up a rebound in the box and placed a shot past Ryan Catterick to make it two and set his team on the road to victory.

Steven Roberts pulled one back with 15 to go, leading to the greybeards saying that “a 2-0 lead is the hardest one to hold in football”, Matthew Bancroft made a couple of good saves to keep the North Yorkshire hordes out and when the whistle went at just after 9.15, all agreed that they had seen a fine game and that Tafari Nichols was one to watch.

We may well have witnessed a new star in the making at Dean Street. I am sure that all in the 168 crowd wish him all the best as he makes his way in the game. And I think that Shildon’s second half defending was marginally better than England’s was last night – not that that would be difficult.

Pete Sixsmith